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Posts for November, 2013

Moscow Gay Club Targeted in Gas Attack

Jim Burroway

November 25th, 2013

Central Station, a popular Moscow gay club, sustained what was described as a “gas attack” Saturday night.

In the night of November, 23 a well-known Moscow gay club “Central Station” was again under attack.  Unknown malefactors sprayed some harmful gas inside the club among about 500 attendees. Several people sought medical attention but refused to go to a hospital.

The club staff immediately turned on a smoke removal machine which eliminated the gas from the premises in a couple of minutes, LifeNews reports.

“Today is the fourth provocation against the club arranged by unknown persons. We believe that they are connected with the building owner”,  says Andrey Leschinsky, the club general director. “They are spaying the gas inside the club premises, thereby trying to express their extremist views against LGBT community, which likes to visit our club”.

On the previous Saturday, security cameras caught two men harassing patrons outside Central Station, and then shot at the club’s exterior when security refused their admission. No one was injured. Police have not made any arrests in either incident.

Pride in Russia, Putin Style

Randy Potts

May 29th, 2013

Last Saturday in Russia, activist Nikolai Alekseev and a small group of compatriots held yet another banned Pride event in Moscow in front of the State Duma.  Two days before the announced (but banned) event, the police visited Nikolai’s home to warn him from carrying out the protest and published their warning in the paper.

Amazingly, today Nikolai and his team have released a video made from several small cameras pinned to activist’s clothing showing what “Pride” looks like in Putin’s Russia — one big, homophobic mess, complete with Orthodox onlookers praying and what appears to have been a punch thrown at Nikolai as he was dragged to the police van.

According to the video, 39 activists were arrested.  With my extremely weak college Russian and the help of Google, some of the signs protesters held up said things like the following –

“Homophobia – cover for dictatorship!”

“Homophobia is killing!”

“Discriminating against the minority is oppression of the majority.”

“We don’t need homophobic legislation. Children need nurseries, kindergarten, education.”

That last sign refers to recent legislation, passed in state after state within Russia, banning homosexual “propaganda” from minors.  Recent polls indicate that over 70% of the Russian population favors the ban — much like, say, the U.S. in the 1950s.  Nikolai has been called the Russian Harvey Milk but he reminds me more of Frank Kameny, for whom announcing “gay is good” was a bold and brash thing to do.

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I was really struck by the two young women in the video shown holding up this rainbow flag which reads “Lyubov’ sil’neye” or “love is stronger than.”  They were arrested moments later.

Masked Men Attack Moscow Gay Bar on “Coming Out Day”

Jim Burroway

October 12th, 2012
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About 50 people were celebrating Coming Out Day in Moscow’s 7Freedays club when about twenty young men entered the club, attacked patrons, and generally rampaged through the place. Several people were injured, with three hospitalized. According to The Moscow News:

Never before in my life, have I experienced such horror,” Elias Regul, who witnessed the gang ransacking the club and called the police, told the Moscow News. Regul and his friend were talking outside the club, when at about 9:25 p.m. they heard the sounds of a fleeing crowd. “It happened very quickly, in a closed space,” Regul said. “It dawned on me, that they are coming to kill us.”

Someone from the group of men, with hoods over their heads and medical masks over their faces, pushed him and the other person away from the entrance, and both of them used this moment to flee the site. Regul reported the case to a traffic policeman on duty at a nearby station and called the police. By the time he returned to the club with the officer, the assailants were running away from the club. “What we saw inside was complete chaos,” he said. The club was in ruins and blood was everywhere, he recalled.

Andrei Obolensky, who organized the event at the club, told reporters that the assailants aimed at people’s faces and heads with fists and bottles. Most of those attending the event were women. RIA Novosti has a few more details:

“They pulled a gun on the bouncers as they entered the club. Then they shouted ‘You wanted a show?’” Obolensky told RIA Novosti. “People were bleeding; they had been hit in the head with bottles.”

Two of the three people hospitalized for the injuries they sustained in the attack have now been released from hospital. One girl, who suffered a serious eye injury, is still being treated.

7Freedays bulls itself as the “first GL-friendly bar in Russia.” Police are reportedly edamining video footage from security cameras inside and outside of the club. Observers say that this is the seventh known attack against gays in Moscow this year. The actual number of attacks are likely higher since many go unreported.

Earlier this week, the People’s Council, a nationalist Russian Orthodox group, issued a statement demanding the closure of all gay bars in Moscow. The group also is pressing Moscow’s city government to adopt an “anti-propaganda” law similar to the one passed in St. Petersburg and other Russian regions. Portions of that law were upheld by Russia’s Supreme Court last month.

Moscow Police Break Up Pride March, 40 Arrested

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2012

LGBT advocates attempted two Pride demonstrations in Moscow today. The first outside a city council building was blocked by Russian Orthodox opponents and broken up by police.  The second demonstration by city hall was also broken up by police, who arrested about 40 LGBT advocates and a small number of Orthodox opponents. According to the Washington Post:

Gay activist Galina Kaptur criticized city authorities for treating homosexuality as a contagious disease that would be spread through society if gays were allowed to hold a parade.

“It’s as if they thought that if all left-handed people held a parade, then afterward everyone would become left-handed,” Kaptur said. “This is wrong.”

Among the opponents of gay rights was Dmitry Tsarionov, who spoke to the crowd in front of a sign that said “Moscow is not Sodom.”

“I will not allow perverts to bring the wrath of God onto our city,” he said. “I want our children to live in a country where a sin that so awfully distorts human nature is not preached in schools.”

Gay rights advocate Nicolai Alexeyev was among those arrested.

Russian Cities Weigh Laws Banning LGBT Advocacy

Jim Burroway

November 23rd, 2011

Two Russian regions have already passed laws prohibiting all forms of LGBT advocacy, and now the city governments of St. Petersburg and Moscow are considering similar measures.

Earlier this year, Ryazan and Arkhangelsk oblasts passed laws banning what they call “gay propaganda,” which include public speech and advocacy on behalf of gay and transgender people. The St. Petersburg proposal includes a fine of up to $1,600 for organizations engaging in “public actions aimed at propaganda of pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.” The fine for individuals would be about $100.The bill doesn’t define what constitutes “public actions,” leaving LGBT advocates concerned that the law would be yet another tool for police to use to crack down on gay pride events. The bill has a separate but identical provision banning advocacy for pedophilia, thus equating it with homosexuality in the public debate. The bill, which is backed by the ruling United Russia party, passed the first of three required readings last week with a 27-1 vote, with one abstention.

Shortly after the bill passed its first reading in St. Petersburg, a Moscow-based newspaper reports that a similar bill is in the works in the Moscow Duma. There is also talk that Russian state legislators may take up similar measures. One delegate says the proposal however would not go far enough:

If this [law against gay propaganda] is meant for our state’s security, this is all good. Only the people who break that law should not be fined;instead, they need to receive punishment under the criminal code”, said deputy Ekaterina Lahova.

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 under President Boris Yeltsin.

European Court on Human Rights Rules That Moscow Gays Have Right To Pride

Jim Burroway

October 21st, 2010

In a historic ruling today in the case of Nikolai Alexeev v. Russia, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia violated the European Convention on Human Rights with the banning of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Moscow Prides. The court awarded 12,000 euros in damages to Moscow gay rights advocate and Pride organizer Nikolai Alexeev and a further 17,500 euros in costs.

Alexeev told Moscow News, “This is the first ever decision of the European Court of Human Rights which concerns freedom of assembly in Russia. It guarantees everyone freedom of expression without special permission.”

In a statement released earlier this morning, Alexeev hailed today’s verdict as cause for celebration. “We declare October 21, the Russian LGBT Liberation Day and we will celebrate it every year from now on with public demonstrations,” he said.

The European Court ruled that Russian authorities violated three specific articles of the European Convention, namely Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination). Of the last violation, the court wrote:

It has been established above that the main reason for the ban imposed on the events organised by the applicant was the authorities’ disapproval of demonstrations which they considered to promote homosexuality. In particular, the Court cannot disregard the strong personal opinions publicly expressed by the mayor of Moscow and the undeniable link between these statements and the ban. In the light of these findings the Court also considers it established that the applicant suffered discrimination on the grounds of his sexual orientation and that of other participants in the proposed events. It further considers that the Government did not provide any justification showing that the impugned distinction was compatible with the standards of the Convention.

On the issue of freedom of assembly, the court took a particular slap at former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov:

The mayor of Moscow, whose statements were essentially reiterated in the Government’s observations, considered it necessary to confine every mention of homosexuality to the private sphere and to force gay men and lesbians out of the public eye, implying that homosexuality was a result of a conscious, and antisocial, choice. However, they were unable to provide justification for such exclusion. There is no scientific evidence or sociological data at the Court’s disposal suggesting that the mere mention of homosexuality, or open public debate about sexual minorities’ social status, would adversely affect children or “vulnerable adults”. On the contrary, it is only through fair and public debate that society may address such complex issues as the one raised in the present case. Such debate, backed up by academic research, would benefit social cohesion by ensuring that representatives of all views are heard, including the individuals concerned. It would also clarify some common points of confusion, such as whether a person may be educated or enticed into or out of homosexuality, or opt into or out of it voluntarily. This was exactly the kind of debate that the applicant in the present case attempted to launch, and it could not be replaced by the officials spontaneously expressing uninformed views which they considered popular. In the circumstances of the present case the Court cannot but conclude that the authorities’ decisions to ban the events in question were not based on an acceptable assessment of the relevant facts.

The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the ban on the events organised by the applicant did not correspond to a pressing social need and was thus not necessary in a democratic society.

The Moscow Times also notes that this ruling comes on the first day in which Moscow’s new mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, replaced outgoing mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who was fired last month by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Luzhkov had previously denounced Gay Pride parades as “Satanic” and vowed that he would never allow one to take place during his administration.

Russian Court Rules St. Petersburg Must Allow Pride Marches

Jim Burroway

October 13th, 2010

A court in St. Petersburg ruled this week that Russia’s second largest city cannot prohibit Gay Pride marches.

St. Petersburg city officials, like those in Moscow, had repeatedly banned Pride marches. When city officials refused to allow a march to go ahead last June, organizers took the city to court. The court ruling gave city officials until November 1st to change its direction and allow organizers to conduct a march.  City officials say they will comply with the order.

Moscow LGBT advocate Nikolai Alekseev said that they had already experienced one small victory in Moscow last week, when they held the first city-sanctioned gay rally with police protection following the firing of Moscow’s anti-gay mayor Yuri Luhzkov by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. On Thursday, a Moscow Appeals Court is expected to hold a hearing on the ban on this year’s Moscow Pride, and the European Court of Human Rights is also expected to issue a ruling on the Moscow ban soon.

Russian LGBT Activist Arrested Again, This Time At Moscow Rally

Jim Burroway

September 22nd, 2010
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Nikolai Alekseev arrested at a rally in front of Moscow City HallLGBT Activist Nikolai Alekseev has had a busy week this week. He was among eleven activists who were arrested yesterday during a banned protest outside of Moscow City Hall. All eleven activists have been subsequently released. The activists were protesting against Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, whose recent remarks about “faggots” were ruled by a Moscow court as not being hate speech. The protesters had chained themselves to a railing outside of city hall.

Luzhkov abruptly left Moscow to “vacation” at a home in Austria. He is under widespread pressure to resign his post amid widespread allegations of corruption and incompetence. Independent observers believe that some in Russia’s central government see Luzhkov’s power base in Moscow city government as potential threat.

Alekseev has recently been released following a bizarre kidnapping by Russian security forces at week at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport as he was about to board a flight to Geneva. He was held for two days as his captors demanded that he withdraw his lawsuits against Russia lodged at the European Court of Human Rights. They also demanded that he cancel yesterday’s protest at city hall. At one point, his captors used his mobile phone to put out false text messages that Alekseev had fled to Belarus and demanded political asylum. You can read about Alekseev’s account of his ordeal here.

Nikolai Alekseev Believed Held By Russia’s Secret Police

Jim Burroway

September 15th, 2010

Nikolai Alekseev

In an update to our earlier report concerning Russian LGBT-advocate Nikolai Alekseev’s detention, the following notice was posted on GayRussia.Ru’s web site:

Nikolai Alekseev was arrested tonight at the Domodedovo Airport in Moscow where he was supposed to board the flight LX 1337 from Swiss Air Lines to Geneva.

His arrest took place right after the passport control. The border police asked Swiss Air Lines to cancel his boarding pass and to offload his luggage from the plane.

He had time to call a friend as well as the news agency Interfax. Reports of his arrest have been republished in the evening through the Russian media.

As he told his friends and the media, no explanation was given to him on the motive of his arrest.

Airport security and Moscow police both deny holding Alekseev. One office told Alekseev’s friends that Alekseev may have been held by FSB agents (the successor to the former Soviet-era KGB) for interrogation at its headquarters in Lubyanka in central Moscow.

Activists at GayRussica applied for a permit yesterday to hold a demonstration on Sept 21 on under the title of “Luzhkov — Gomiki.” That is in reference to Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has consistently denied the group permission to hold Gay Pride rallies for the past several years. “Gomiki” is the Russian word that translates roughly as “faggot.” Russia’s officially controlled news channels have lately accused Luzhkov of corruption, leading to speculation that he may be forced to step down.

This latest development with Alekseev’s detention is worrying. According to GayRussia.Ru, the Russian government recently passed a law reviving FSB detention practices that had been routine during the KGB era. The FSB has reportedly declined to comment on whether they are detaining Alekseev.

Moscow Pride Elude Police, Pride March Goes Ahead Undisturbed

Jim Burroway

May 29th, 2010

In defiance of yet another ban against holding a Gay Pride march by Moscow city authorities, and in yet another display of LGBT activists’ incredible organizing abilities, a march by LGBT advocates and allies took place this afternoon on Moscow’s main Leningradsky Avenue undisturbed. Pride organizer Nikolai Alexeyev pulled off this feat after luring hundreds of riot police and undercover officers to a different location:

“We want to show that the peaceful march of gays and lesbians in this city is possible,” Alexeyev told AFP after the protest. “You saw we didn’t disrupt any traffic, we didn’t disrupt any rights of other citizens.”

“Unfortunately we are obliged to do some kind of military operation to make sure that this event takes place.”

A single police car arrived ten minutes after the protest ended and no-one was arrested.

Organisers had changed the location at the last minute and bussed reporters on a twisting two-hour route to evade a heavy police presence in central Moscow.

In a diversion tactic, Alexeyev on Wednesday told journalists the protest would be held outside the European Commission’s office in central Moscow. Police and riot police gathered at the announced location, organisers said.

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Two Views On Moscow Court Hearing on Marriage Case; European Court Seeks Answers on Pride Bans

Jim Burroway

October 9th, 2009

In the post about the Moscow court that denied a marriage license to a Russian lesbian couple, I neglected to give a hat tip to Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev. In an email, he offered two interesting insights into the goings-on in the court building that day, in the chambers and outside:

During the hearing, the Judge asked Irina S. “Are you husband or are you wife?” which already showed at the time that she was not neutral. But perhaps the biggest surprise came later while we were waiting for the decision: A Court employee came to talk with us and told us that he simply could not understand why the couple was not allowed to marry.

He also notes that the case has received widespread notice in Russian media, much of it relatively positive.

On another note, the European Court of Human Rights has given Russia until January 20 to answer for the bans of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Moscow Pride marches. This action results from a complaint filed before the court by human rights activists following the bans on some 163 different LGBT events. Alekseev, who is one of the plaintiffs and chief organizer for Moscow Pride, hopes that a decision comes down before the next scheduled Moscow Pride on May 29, 2010.

Moscow Court Denies Marriage Bid

Jim Burroway

October 8th, 2009

Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina ShipitkoLast May, Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko strode into a Moscow registry office and sought a marriage license. The office director denied their request, saying that Russian law only recognizes a marriage between a man and a woman. The couple took their case to court, which this week upheld the registrar’s ruling:

Irina Fet and Irina Shipitko had asked the Tverskoi district court to overrule a decision by a registry office which refused to endorse their marriage in May. It quoted Russian laws which describes a marriage as a “union between a woman and a man.”

“The judge refused their request,” spokeswoman Alexandra Berezina said without giving further details.

According to Moscow LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev, who served as their attorney, the couple plan to fight the ruling. They also plan to go go Canada later this month and marry there.

Moscow Protest By LGBT Advocates Called Off

Jim Burroway

July 6th, 2009

Russian gay activists have cancelled a planned July 7 protest in Moscow which was intended to coincide with a visit by President Barack Obama. Moscow authorities banned the protest in front of the U.S. Embassy, but that’s not why organizers called it off. Organizer Nikolai Alekseev cited increased security and safety fears as factors:

He said: “In the context of another unlawful ban by the authorities on a public event as well as the special measures taken in the Russian capital during the visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, we have decided to cancel the event due to concerns over the safety of our members.”

Moscow had banned an earlier Pride march that was set to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest taking place in Moscow in May. That peaceful Pride march went ahead, but was quickly broken up within minutes by riot police.

Russian LGBT Advocates To Picket Obama In Moscow

Jim Burroway

June 9th, 2009
U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Nikolail Alekseev, organizer of Moscow’s Gay Pride events, has announced that they plan to stage a protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on July 7 during a state visit of U.S. President Barack Obama. They plan to press Obama on same-sex marriage:

“We want to express our solidarity with US gay activists who are planning similar protests in Washington DC, Chicago and other cities in the coming months,” he said.

Andy Thayer of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network commended the Russian protest. ““This international support for our equal rights is particularly commendable in light of the fact that most LGBT groups in the U.S. continue to fail to help LGBTs outside of the U.S,” he told a Russian LGBT web site. Thayer participated in last month’s Slavic Pride which was broken up by Russian riot police.

Alekseev will apply for permission with Moscow authorities to hold the picket in front of the embassy. He characterizes the likelihood of receiving the proper permits “highly unlikely,” and doesn’t say what he will do if the permits are denied.

Russian Riot Police Break Up Slavic Pride

Jim Burroway

May 16th, 2009
Nikolai Alekseev being arrested by OMON riot police.

Nikolai Alekseev being arrested by OMON riot police.

Police in riot gear swept in and forcibly broke up an attempted Slavic Pride march near Moscow State University shortly after noon today just as the march was getting underway. Between twenty and forty people were arrested in all.

The march had only been underway for about a minute when OMON rushed in and began hauling off marchers to waiting buses. Riot police then began detaining other gay activists who appeared shortly after and were speaking with media. They were arrested even though they hadn’t participated in the march itself. There are reports that as police hauled away Ksenia Prilebskaya, they ripped off her shirt and bra and roughly pushed her into a police bus.

Moscow authorities had earlier denied permission to hold the march, and they vowed to break up any attempt by activists to march without permission. Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov has described Pride marches as “satanic,” and his spokesman yesterday said the march sought to “destroy the moral foundations of our society.”

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Among those in custody are Slavic Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev and Chicago LGBT activist Andy Theyer. Alekseev and another activist were were at an adjacent park popular with newlyweds dressed as a groom and bride while giving interviews with media when police spotted and arrested them. Alekseev was held down by five riot police as he was arrested. British activist Peter Tatchell was arrested but has since been released. One activist has already been taken before a judge who pronounced him innocent, but he still remains in police custody.

There is currently no word from Alekseev since his arrest. He has reportedly been segregated from the other arrested activists and his cell phone has been confiscated.

The detentions come as Moscow prepares to host the final round of the Eurovision Song Contest, Europe’s most prestigious pop music event. Russia had reportedly spent some 24 million euros on the contest in an attempt to bolster its international image. Some singers had threatened to boycott the wildly popular world event if the Slavic Pride march was broken up. Today’s arrests are highly embarrassing for the Eurovision organizers, which has a big gay following across Europe. According to the U.K.’s Telegraph:

Advance questions about the march drew embarrassed silence from Graham Norton, the BBC’s commentator for the competition, and Andrew Lloyd Weber, who co-wrote the song for Britain’s contestant, Jade Ewen. Both men claimed not to have heard of the protest, while Lord Lloyd Weber suggested that it might have been banned to avoid traffic congestion.

A few hours earlier, Russian Orthodox nationalists held a counterdemonstration against Slavic Pride. That counterdemonstration was held with the approval of Moscow city authorities. Demonstrators there chanted “Glory to Christ! Death to the Antichrist!.”

UK Gay News continues to provide hour-by-hour updates on the situation.

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